The Human Computer


The Human Computer!

Probably few of us have heard of Jaime Garcia Serrano of Colombia.  This unique man, who has been called the mathematician of the century, has also been labeled the “Human Computer.”  Serrano has repeatedly made the Guinness records for his mental feats. 

One reference says that his Guinness records include “extraction by root thirteen of a number of one hundred digits in a time of 0.15 seconds (May 24, 1998); memorization of a number of two hundred and twenty numbers from a single look (May 24, 1989); calculation of the calendars of one hundred thousand years at the Instituto de Cooperacion Iberoamericana in Madrid (April, 1991); calculation of the Gregoriano calendar of a million years at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (Mty, 1995); and calculation of the trigonometrical functions at the Universidad del Rosario, Santafe de Bogota (August, 1998).”

A recent news report gave Serrano’s latest accomplishment.  For some hours, this “Human Computer” performed an amazing feat.  He “recited from memory random sections of pi taken to 150,000 decimal places.  He stood in front of a screen with the decimal at the Complutense University of Madrid” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram).  As many of us learned in Plain Geometry class in high school, the Greek letter “pi” is used as “the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter” (Webster’s College Dictionary, Random House).  Generally the ratio itself is reckoned very briefly: 3.14159.  Few can go beyond 3.14, the number we learned in math.

How is it possible for a human being to know accurately Pi to 150,000 decimal places?  We have no idea how it is possible but apparently this man has done it.  We must conclude that Serrano is a genius, a man whom God has blessed with an incredible memory and mental capacity! 

Several observations come to mind when I consider this mental facility and recent achievement.  First, God has given great gifts to each of us, even when we are not truly saved.  This fact caused the psalmist to exclaim, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14).  We should give thanks to God for the mental and physical abilities He has given to us.  We are stewards to use these natural gifts for His glory.

Second, none of us should boast in ourselves.  While we may marvel at Serrano’s abilities and skills, we would not in any way endorse this kind of public exhibition.  Paul asks, “Who regards you as superior?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7).  This is why we would not condone spelling bees, athletic competitions, feats of strength and mental ability, beauty contests, or anything else that exalts personal accomplishment.  All of this fosters pride.  All of it encourages boasting—a grave sin before the Lord.  As the apostle points out, all that we have comes from God and should not be used to point to ourselves.  “Let no one boast in men” (1 Cor. 3:21).  “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31).

Third, the mental feat that we have noted above is a reminder that we, as God’s creatures, have been given the gift of memory.  This is something that we should cultivate and use in many ways.  We should strengthen our memory to make our life more productive and fruitful in the carrying out of our responsibilities on the job and in the home.  I’ve read books in my life that give helpful suggestions to improve this natural ability to memorize. 

Especially we should use our mental faculties to commit the Word of God to memory.  The psalmist said, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).  If you are a parent, train your children while they are young to memorize Bible verses.  While they are young, they can better commit the Word to memory.  They can hide hundreds of these verses in their mind and heart, and this wealth of Scripture will work its powerful saving and sanctifying effects on their mind throughout their life.  Remember the description of Timothy’s childhood: “From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).  However, note this also: No one is too old to memorize scripture!  Begin today to commit a verse, then ten verses, then a whole chapter to the memory bank of your heart!  God will use this in an amazing way—to bless your own life and to bless the lives of others.

Finally, this memory feat that we have reported reminds us that God is far, far beyond even the most intelligent of us!  Scripture says, “Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5).  Our God is omniscient—He knows all things!  Consider this:  If there are 10 things about you to know each second (thoughts, words, deeds), this would be 600 each minute, 36,000 each hour, and 864,000 each day.  This would mean that God knows some 315,360,000 things about you each year!  And this would be 22,075,200,000 (22 billion) things about you in a lifetime of 70 years!  God knows all about you and me! 

It has been estimated that perhaps 50 billion people have lived on earth since creation (although this is very speculative).  If each of them has had some 22 billion things to know about them during their lifetime, this would mean that God is fully and completely aware of some 1,100 billion, billion things!  If my math is accurate, this would be 1.1 sextillion (1,100,000,000,000,000,000,000) things about the human race.  If this is so (and probably this is a faint shadow of the truth), God’s knowledge would make Serrano’s knowledge seem like child’s play!  Our God is infinite!  He is all-knowing!

Let us be encouraged by this news report but let us also take warning!  God knows all about us and His memory is absolutely perfect!  Are you prepared to meet Him in judgment today?  Now is the time to prepare—for tomorrow may never come!

Richard Hollerman



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